DSI is a Main Street organization, which means it organizes it activities around four pillars of revitalization: Design, Promotions, Organization and Economic Vitality.
Today’s Downtown Springfield knows that growth will only happen by undertaking economic development activities that fill the smaller vacant properties and build new foot traffic, activities that have also attracted a new generation of volunteers to work alongside DSI staff to #GSD.
Momentum on Main Street is an initiative that grew out of DSI’s Economic Vitality committee earlier this year to help educate and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs, investors and property developers.
“We really aimed to highlight and build off the positives that are already happening downtown,” said David Lee, a medical salesperson and downtown revitalization advocate who chairs the Momentum committee. “We’ve quickly gotten a lot of interest; it obviously was a message people could get behind. We’re hoping the workshops, conversations, and connections that are happening will give people the tools, and confidence, to do their project or business that they’ve been dreaming about.”
The Momentum on Main Street launch event was held March 21 at Arlington’s. More than 100 people attended to hear from current business owners about their experiences setting up shop in the downtown district and to network. All of the attendees to this free event, sponsored by the City of Springfield and US Bank, were invited to apply for scholarships either to take their business concept to the next level, or to attend an Incremental Development Alliance workshop to learn how to take on a property redevelopment without using subsidies.
Attendees at the kick-off event had the opportunity to apply for a Co.Starters scholarship, sponsored by US Bank. Co.Starters is a national nine-week program that began in Chattanooga, TN to help communities “build vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems by equipping them with the best tools and resources needed.” Co.Starters in Springfield is hosted by Innovate Springfield, UIS’ business incubator located in the heart of downtown.
Then in June, Innovate Springfield hosted their first Co.Starters Pitch Event to hear from the ten participants in the first cohort. Five of the Co.Starters cohort members received the US
Bank scholarships as part of the Momentum on Main Street program:
- Sarah Stahly – Sweet Scoops
- Patrick Russell – Curtain & Leaf
- Dayton Burntett – Trans4orm
- Liz Hiller – Thirtsty’s Taproom
- Thomas Phinney – Cafe on the Rocks
Three of the Momentum “scholars” are looking to create new brick-and-mortar experiences. Sarah Stahly began her business Sweet Scoops by looking to put a unique spin on ice cream. Her ice cream choices include non-dairy and vegan. She uses substitutes like coconut milk and almond milk to make delicious flavor combinations such as Strawberry Banana & Ruby Basil or Chocolate Peanut Butter Fried Banana.
Liz Hiller had the idea for Thirsty’s Taproom, a crossroads for everything craft beer, after living in places like Chicago and North Carolina and experiencing their craft beer scene. Lately, Central Illinois has caught the craft beer bug and the movement has centered in downtown with spots like Obed & Isaac’s, Buzz Bomb Brewing Co., and Anvil & Forge Brewing. Thirsty’s Taproom would serve as a spot for patrons to try all of their favorite craft beers in one location. Thirsty’s Taproom would be a family friendly atmosphere with an emphasis on enjoying great beer and community.
Thomas Phinney, an avid rock climbing expert, and his wife Ruth plan to open an indoor “bouldering cafe” in downtown. On The Rocks Bouldering would help increase Springfield’s knowledge of bouldering, which is rock climbing without the assistance of a harness. Ultimately the business would lead regular bouldering tours in the western U.S.
DSI’s Momentum on Main Street will be providing five more scholarships for the next Co.Starters cohort in September. If you have a great new business idea and are ready to do the work to make it a reality, fill out the application now.
FREE FOLLOW UP SESSIONS
Since the launch event, DSI has held one-hour informational sessions on a variety of related subjects, with the goal of hosting six related topics during 2019. The first covered how to start your business by selling at the Farmers Market. The second was hosted at the Lincoln Public Library and featured a panel of city staff demystifying the process of permits and licensing.
The third Momentum on Main Street event was an interactive walking tour led by architect and owner of Square Root Architecture + Design, Jeff Sommers, to help participants discern what is needed when one buys a downtown building. He was joined by a banker and two realtors. Mark Nelson and Ed Mahoney are with Re/Max professionals. Ed has worked as a realtor in Springfield for over 30 years and was on the founding board for DSI.
The next Momentum free session is on July 30th at Anvil and Forge Brewing. The session will be led by Lauren Silkowski of US Bank and Lashonda Fitch of Justine Petersen and will provide attendees with ideas for how to achieve financing for a business start-up. More details to follow.